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Learning how to hang glide is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. In this expert guide, find out how to start hang gliding.
Are you thinking about getting into hang gliding? If so, this is the right article (and entire site) for you. For me personally, hang gliding is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever experienced and I’m excited to share my passion with you. The most important thing about learning how to start hang gliding is to simply get out there and start. From there, you’ll be having so much fun it’ll come easy!
Getting into hang gliding isn’t as hard as you might think. First, you want to find a certified school/instructor and go on an introductory flight. Next, begin taking lessons such as hill and towing, aerotowing, and weather guidance. Then earn your ratings, buy your gear, and take to the skies!
So you want to start hang gliding? It's a great sport that provides a lifetime of adventure and excitement. The first step is to attend a certified hang gliding school and take an introductory flight to get a taste of what the sport is like and whether or not it's for you. Hang gliding lessons are essential to getting used to the sport. You will also learn about the different rating levels from USHPA and more. Hang gliding can be tough to learn but it's definitely worth it!
Here at Flight Notch, we only want to provide our readers with the best, most engaging, and most helpful content possible. While we have plenty of passion, experience, and opinions of our own, we want to ensure we don’t miss anything before putting an article out there. So every topic is researched, vetted, and discussed with other gliding enthusiasts from all over to make sure we’re covering all the bases.
How Do You Start Hang Gliding?
Getting into hang gliding might not be quite as hard as you think. Trust me, I get it. When I first started getting interested in this sport, I thought it just seemed way out of the realm of possibility as far as me being able to do it myself. But, like all things in life, you really just need to get out there and do it.
I know, I know. That miniature motivational speech didn’t really answer your question, so let me get off my soap box. While true, just going out there and doing it isn’t the most helpful advice. So let’s go a little deeper. Here is everything you need to do to start hang gliding.
Find A Certified Hang Gliding Instructor Or School
You can find a certified instructor or school close to you at USHPA.org, which is the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association website. Bit of a side note here, but this organization is kind of like the overseer of the entire gliding industry in the US, almost sort of like the Federal Aviation Administration is for flying other types of aircraft.
USHPA will have information specific to your region including local clubs and schools, contact information for instructors, and even some details about when they are available to teach lessons. If you’re just getting into hang gliding, using a school or instructor rated and certified by USHPA will make a huge difference. This is the big certification you’re looking for!
Take An Introductory Flight
Once you get in contact with a certified school or instructor, you want to set up an introductory flight as soon as possible. On the introductory flight, your instructor will give you an overview of what hang gliding is like and what you can expect to learn when you take lessons with them or the school they’re affiliated with.
This generally lasts about 30 to 60 minutes from start to finish but could be shorter or longer depending on how long it takes for you to get comfortable with things. The flight will cost about $120-$150 and is a great way to decide if hang gliding is for you before committing more time or money into this sport.
You can also go on tandem flights any time you want where your instructor (or another certified professional) pilots the glider while wearing two harnesses, one for themselves and another attached directly to them so that you can fly without any experience necessary!
Take Lessons And Learn To Fly
Once you decide to move forward with learning how to start hang gliding (I’m confident that you will decide to move forward!), next up on the list is to start your actual lessons. While you’ll likely have even more lessons than this (usually 5 to 10), the most common and important ones include hill training, scooter towing training, aerotowing training, and learning how weather affects flight.
Hang Gliding Hill and Scooter Towing Training
You will learn about hill training and scooter tower training at the beginning of your lessons. Hill training is the most basic flying lesson, where an instructor teaches students how to launch their gliders from hillsides using gravity and a running start.
After you’ve gotten proficient at hill training, cooter towing training is next. This is a training method where you are towed into the air by a motorized scooter. This allows students to learn how to fly in a variety of different conditions before attempting any sort of aerotowing.
Hang Gliding Aerotowing Training
Once you have mastered the lessons above, you will move on to aerotowing. This is using an aircraft to tow the hang glider into the air so that it can be released and flown. This is the most common way to start flying and can be done at various locations around the world. This is how most people really learn to fly and typically takes about 10 to 12 hours of training before you are allowed to do it solo.
The way that aerotowing works is a rope is attached from the back of an aircraft to your glider, and then when you are in position on the ground (or sometimes water), the aircraft pulls you into the sky. You will be in a harness that is attached to the glider and will release it when you reach an appropriate altitude.
From there, you would fly the hang glider as normal, with all of the lessons you’ve mastered up to this point. Your instructor will likely do this training with you via tandem flying before releasing you on your own, hence the 10 to 12 hours of training.
Learn How Weather Affects Hang Gliding
In addition to learning how to fly, students also need to understand how weather affects flying. Wind speed, wind direction and the level of turbulence in the air all play a part in whether or not it's safe for someone to fly.
Instructors will monitor conditions daily and decide if it's appropriate for students to fly or not. You may find that days with high winds are not good for flying but there are always other days that are perfect for taking to the sky.
The lessons you learn here will be important for every flight you go on moving forward. Even when you’re on your own, you should always be cognizant of the weather whenever you want to start gliding!
Earn Your Pilot Ratings & Certifications
Once you have completed all of your training and met any of the other requirements, you can become rated (think certified) by USHPA.
The rating levels are beginner (rated H-1/P-1), novice pilot (rated H-2/P-2), intermediate hang glider pilot (rated H-3/P-3), advanced pilot (rated H-4/P-4) and master pilots who have demonstrated skill and aptitude for a long period of time (rated H-5/P-5).
These ratings are so important because many of the top gliding locations in the country require you to have an USHPA rating of some sort to launch/land at that location.
Buy Your Hang Gliding Equipment & Glider
The last step before you can start hang gliding is to get all of the equipment you need. In order to fly, you will need a glider, harness, helmet, and potentially a variometer. The instructor or school may have some of this equipment available for students — however most people find it more convenient if they buy their own gear. In addition to these necessary items, you might also want radios, a flying suit, goggles and gloves.
How Much Does It Cost To Start Hang Gliding?
Hang gliding can be a very expensive sport, especially if you are looking to buy your own equipment. You will need a glider, harness, helmet and other gear in order to fly and this will all set you back $2,000 to $10,000+.
You will also be responsible for finding your own transportation to and from the launch site as well as paying a membership fee with USHPA, which is around $80 - $300 per year depending on the level of membership that you want to have with the organization.
If you want to buy your own hang glider, you will pay anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 or more for a used one, depending on the brand and model. You can also buy new hang gliders if you prefer, but expect to spend upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 or more depending on how many bells and whistles you want to pay for.
You can also rent equipment for free or a small fee at many locations around the country if you don't have any yet! This is an excellent way to get into hang gliding because it means that there are no upfront costs associated with getting started so all of your money can go towards lessons.
Is It Hard To Start Hang Gliding?
It can take some time to learn how to hang glide but most people are able to do so within a few hours to a few days’ worth of training. If you don't have strong motor control or coordination then it might take longer than expected before becoming proficient at this sport, but with enough work and dedication, it really is a sport that anyone can do in time.
The average person takes about 5-10 lessons over the course of a few months before being ready for their first solo flight though there are many factors that influence how quickly someone picks up on this skill. These are things such as age and physical fitness level.
For example, children and elderly people tend to struggle a bit more than young to middle-aged adults. Similarly, someone with more physical strength can usually adapt a bit faster and get used to the controls needed to fly.
If you're worried that hang gliding seems impossible to learn, don't be! Hang gliding is the perfect sport for people who want to learn how to fly like a bird but have no experience with flying or aviation at all. It’s much easier to start hang gliding than it is to become a pilot, for example. And many would argue that gliding is even more fun, too!
How Old Do You Have To Be To Hang Glide?
There is no minimum age requirement for hang gliding since it is something like flying an airplane where you need to have a pilot’s license. In fact, one of the most popular hang gliding locations in the country, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee takes passengers anywhere from 5 to 92 years old on tandem flights.
While there aren’t any actual imposed age requirements, most people that get into the sport at a young age begin training around 14 to 16 years old. It really just comes down to being tall enough, weighing enough, and being strong enough to control the glider. There’s also a big mental component to hang gliding to keep in mind, which is why you don’t really want a 5-year-old attempting to glide on their own!
At the other end of the spectrum, there is not really any sort of maximum age limit on hang gliding either. As long as you’re in the physical and mental state necessary to safely operate a hang glider, you can never be too old to enjoy this sport!